Starting Nine (Week of June 26th)

The Rangers lost a pair in New York, the Phillies appear to be heating up, and the Rays and Braves just keep on winning. Who is in and out of this week’s Starting Nine lineup? Here’s our Starting Nine for this week.

Starting Nine (Week of June 26th)

#9. Cincinnati Reds 41-37 (+4500/+10,000) - Can someone tell the Reds' young core that this is all happening too fast? Young infielders McClain and De La Cruz give the Reds as good a pair of infield prospects as there is in the game. The Reds come off a 12-game win streak and are likely place-holding this spot, but they are fun to watch. Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

#8. Miami 45-34 (+1800/+4000) - Imagine how well the Marlins would be playing with Chisholm healthy and Alcantara pitching as he did in 2022. Still, the Marlins are proving they have depth, a solid outfield core, and more than just one stud pitcher. Oh and 2B Arraez is flirting with .400 still with July approaching. Last Week’s Rank: 7th

#7. Los Angeles Dodgers 43-34 (+290/+550) - The Dodgers closed the week hot taking two of three from the defending champion Astros after sweeping the previously red-hot Angels in back-to-back series. The young arms have proven worthy in the Dodgers’ rotation. Last Week’s Rank: 9th

#6. San Francisco Giants 44-34 (+950/+2000) - The Giants have won eight of ten and proved in their sweep of the Dodgers in LA last weekend that they can hang with the big boys. The Giants will likely be looking for a starter at the deadline. Last Week’s Rank: 8th

#5. Baltimore Orioles 47-29 (+1200/+2500) - Baltimore welcomed back CF Mullens this week which should bolster their lineup. Still curious if they will be aggressive at the trade deadline. Last Week’s Rank: 5th

#4. Texas Rangers 47-30 (+500/+1100) - Seeing the Rangers struggle in the Bronx this weekend was a bit concerning when the Yankees staff slowed their offense. Can this team win without a dominant offense? Last Week’s Rank: 3rd

#3. Arizona Diamondbacks 47-32 (+1200/+3000) - Arizona remains in first place in the NL West even with the Dodgers starting to warm up again. Can they get enough pitching past Gallen and Kelly? Last Week’s Rank: 5th

#2. Atlanta Braves 50-27 (+175/+370) - The Braves cooled off the red-hot Reds and took the final two games of their weekend series. They continue to be held together by a dominant offense as they wait for their pitching to get healthy. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#1. Tampa Bay Rays 54-27 (+235/+475) - This has been the most mediocre stretch all year for the Rays and they now cling to the top spot in our Starting Nine with the #2 team bearing down on them. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

AL/NL MVP Candidates:

Let’s look at the favorites to win the major awards in MLB as we sit halfway through the Month of May.

Top-five AL MVP Candidates

#1. Shohei Ohtani (-650) - Ohtani is quite literally flexing his muscles as of late as he runs away with at least the first-half MVP in the American League. He leads the league in home runs and RBI and is second in WAR. This doesn’t even account for his efforts on the mound. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#2. Corey Seager (+3500) - Seager doesn’t yet have enough ABs to qualify for the batting title but is on his way and is currently 40 points higher than AL-hitting leader Bichette. If Seager can stay healthy, he’s been the best player on one of the best teams in the AL. Last Week’s Rank: 3rd

#3. Wander Franco (+3500) - Franco jumps back up the rankings as Aaron Judge remains on the sidelines. His candidacy is difficult to gauge on a Rays’ team that has so many contributors. Still, the team’s SS is the best player and most dynamic. Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

#4. Aaron Judge (+5000) - His value to the Yankees is nearly immeasurable. Without him in the lineup, the Yankees are hitting just .195 as a team! He will have a lot of ground to make up against Ohtani if he stays out much longer. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#5. Vlad Guerrero Jr. (+5500) - To me, Guerrero is the most interesting candidate on the board. He hit his first two homers at home this week and he is the key cog in what might be the AL’s most talented team. If Guerrero and the Blue Jays heat up, he could race up the rankings. Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

Top-five NL MVP Candidates

#1. Ronald Acuna Jr. (-140) - Acuna is getting it done a bit differently than Ohtani in the AL. He is pacing the NL’s best team with a combination of speed, defense, and power. He could run away with this award if he starts going on one of his power tears. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#2. Corbin Carroll (+500) - Carroll’s odds have dropped each week as the Diamondbacks continue to win and defy the odds. He is top ten in the NL in average, doubles, home runs, and total bases, and second in WAR. Rookie or not, he is deserving of this spot. Last Week’s Rank: 4th

#3. Freddie Freeman (+650) - Freeman drops down a spot this week but continues to pace the Dodgers. With LA climbing back up the standings, Freeman will remain in the hunt although Mookie Betts’ own numbers can take some starch out of Freeman’s candidacy. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#4. Luis Arreaz (+2500) - Still hard to ignore Arreaz’s candidacy as long as he continues to flirt with .400 and the Marlins keep winning. He is right at .400 entering this week and the Marlins are still in first place. Last Week’s Rank: 3rd

#5. Fernando Tatis Jr. (+3000) - In many ways, Tatis Jr. is the west coast version of Acuna. He can steal bases whenever he wants, he has thrived in rightfield, and he has the potential for a 30-30 season at least. If the Padres heat up, he may very well emerge as Acuna’s main rival. Last Week’s Rank: 5th

Top-three AL Cy Young Candidates

#1. Shane McClanahan (+250) - He may miss a start after leaving the Royals’ game with back spasms but it doesn’t appear to be serious. He remains the clear-cut favorite in the AL. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#2. Gerrit Cole (+550) - Cole’s value to the Yankees’ has shined through with Judge out and each of Cole’s starts critical. He has delivered with an 8-1 record and a 2.64 ERA and the top WAR in the AL. Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

#3. Framber Valdez (+300) - Valdez is tied with Cole in WAR, second to McClanahan in ERA, and has the best WHIP of the three pitchers. He very well could keep the Cy Young in Houston for the second straight season. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

Top-three NL Cy Young Candidates

#1. Zac Gallen (+155) - Gallen had another dominant start at home and followed that up with a solid start on the road. He is tied for the league lead in wins and is in the top ten in most major pitching categories for a first-place team. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#2. Zac Wheeler (+900) - Wheeler remains a solid candidate for me on a winning team that has also started to get hot. He is quietly climbing the NL pitching standings and the veteran is fully capable of rattling off a long win streak. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#3. Marcus Stroman (+2000) - A tough start on Monday in England knocks Stroman out of the top spot but his numbers still hold up. He’s tops in WAR, tied for the league lead in wins, and third in WHIP. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

*All odds courtesy of

By Mark Ruelle

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Mark Ruelle

Mark has been a sports fanatic since childhood. He is also an avid follower of sports analytics and has used it in his own betting analysis for over two decades. Now we have Mark on our team here at Stat Salt. He holds degrees in marketing, broadcasting, and English and uses this vast array of assets to dissect and analyze game matchups. Mark will provide you with a wide variety of statistics to consider and a strong opinion in each matchup that he covers. Please follow him daily for an up-to-the-minute analysis of all the important games.